While I wrote a while back about my experience with an aftermarket Chinese Android Car radio , I had expected by this point in 2016 we would have a flood of more mainstream vendor’s aftermarket units with more polished interfaces…
February 16 Update! : It appears a new aftermarket entrant is coming into the market. The good old folks that brought us paper maps, but recently specialized in trucking gps’s , Rand-McNally are offering an aftermarket infotainment tablet called OverDryve, which after reading the spec appears to offer a lot of features.
Unfortunately as of January 2016, there are only a handful (two) of official name brand aftermarket radio series.. they are:
Kenwood recently announced a few new Kenwood Android Auto/ Carplay models: These will be part of the Standard Kenwood product group and their Kenwood eXcelon brand. They start around $500.
Secondly Pioneer has had a lineup of Android Auto/Carplay head units these include:
- That’s it! the remaining announcements by the likes of Ford, Volvo, GM etc are all aimed at new cars., not aftermarket.For example all new 2017 Ford models will have Android Auto/Apple Carplay as their factory radios.
What’s the basics and benefits of Android Auto/Apple Carplay
The main premise behind Android Auto and Apple Carplay is that your head unit (car stereo’s screen) becomes a mirrored screen of your smart phone. That is the smartphone’s OS (Android or Ios) supplies all the smarts (navigation, music, network, voice recognition) and then the display and inputs (audio, speakers, mic, touch) are handled by the car head unit and reflected , synced up with your phone.
The compatible head units (like the ones noted above) , are configured to display an optimized auto-centric view of your phone, with your phone providing all the real horsepower, such as playing music (ie. Pandora, Spotify) , navigation via Google maps, voice commands and voice recognition and so on.
It’s this auto focused interface that leverages voice input via Google voice (or Siri) and provides a polished optimized driving infotainment experience. That’s the main selling point of these units.
Why a Chinese after market stereo is still a better deal.
- The first obvious reason is cost, you can find most Chinese aftermarket Android radios at less than $400 and
- Second Android aftermarket radios are full-fledged android OS in the radio, so while the interface is not optimized for car’s you get the full Android capability natively right from the radio , no need to have your phone.
- Some newer chinese models are claiming support for Android Auto or Carplay, but buyer beware they are likely skins that make them appear to be Andoid Auto or Car Paly. Neither Google nor Apple officially licenses these radios to make use of Android Auto or Carplay. In order to really be Android Auto or Carplay licensed you need to PAY Goolge or APPLE for the privilege and have your unit validated..
- Stand-alone GPS.. no need for data plan entire US map is on an SD card
In conclusion , yep, its still a way better deal to buy a cheaper Chinese made Android car stereo , put up with a less than ideal interface, but pretty much get everything infotainment wise that the newer Android Auto or Apple Carplay can offer..
Feel free to share opinions or insights below.